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Goat Yoga Brings Joy To Carmel Valley

The practice of yoga dates back thousands of years.  Records of goat yoga go back about two years.  Now, this unusual practice has arrived in Carmel Valley.

Out on a sprawling green lawn in Carmel Valley, laughter and screams of delight are a sign the Saturday goat yoga class is in session.

About ten students have laid their yoga mats in a circle on a bed of straw.  They’re penned in by a small metal fence.  Instructor Shauna Sullivan guides the students through a traditional yoga class as six Nigerian dwarf goats roam freely around and on the students.

“With the goats, they’re in charge.  I have a plan and generally don’t stick to it. It’s going to be flexible,” Sullivan says.

As they work their way through warrior pose then downward dog, Carolyn Gray walks around holding a tin of goat feed.  She sprinkles the pellets on the yoga mats. And for people who want it, on their backs.

The small goats do the rest, nibbling near students and leaping on and off their backs. The point of it all is simple. It’s to feel joy.

“They decrease your stress and they make you feel calm and they bring you into a moment. That moment is joyful because they’re so fun to look at, so fun to watch and be around,” says Gray.

Gray is the founder of Carmel Valley Goats & Yoga.  She got the idea after seeing a picture of a friend doing the reverse tabletop pose with a goat on her belly.

“She had the biggest smile and was laughing so hard that I just said, I want that,” says Gray.

So that settled it for this retired nurse, who otherwise spends most of her free time volunteering to help the homeless.

“You know, I’m now in my 70s and I thought, I got one more thing in me,” says Gray.

She held her first class here on the front lawn of her Carmel Valley home in January.  Now, she hosts them two weekends a month.

This goat yoga business is an outgrowth of a nationwide trend. Goat yoga started in Oregon about two years ago. Since then the craze has grown with classes popping up everywhere from New Hampshire to Texas. It’s even been featured in a Hotels.com commercial.

On Carolyn Gray’s Carmel Valley lawn, the class wraps up with a walk with the goats and a chance for pictures.

Yoga students and friends Kayla Baughn and Lauren Taddeucci say the experience was more for their hearts than their heart rates.

“Your heart rate is pretty much the same, except when you go on your back and that initial shock. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun,” says Baughn.

“A lot of people that I was telling I was going to go to yoga, they were like completely confused by the concept of yoga and goats. But it’s a lot of fun. I would highly recommend it,” Taddeucci says.

Class Details

Dates: Every 2nd and 4th weekend of the month (Saturday & Sunday)

Time: 1 p.m.

Cost: $30

To sign up for a special Mother’s Day class, click here

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